[Ed. Note: Throughout the All-Star Break, the Anaheim Calling team will be giving their mid-season reports. Next up is the rookie and format-defying rebel without a cause, Chris.]
I had a hard time picking my Most Valuable and Least Valuable Players for the Ducks through this point in the season. This is mostly due to the fact that there are not enough options for the former and far too many for the latter.
My first instinct for MVP was Teemu Selanne. The greatest player in the history of the franchise, still leading the team in scoring in what is likely his victory lap season is a fine answer. However, I still believe that Teemu's place atop the Ducks scoreboard is more a reflection of how dismal the season has been for his teammates rather than a testament to his dominance. It's been great watching him continue to be the Finnish Flash until the bitter end with ageless speed and skill, but it hasn't manifested itself in the standings.
I wanted really badly to name Niklas Hagaman my first half MVP because his tenacity on the puck since joining the flock has been one of the few bright spots in this bleak, bleak season. Then again, by the same logic that I didn't give it to Teemu, I would have to award Jason Blake the distinction. After all, the presence of his Hagman-esque work ethic has corresponded with a 10-3-1 record. As I said in the open thread for Sunday's game versus Colorado, I refuse to believe that Blake is that important to this team, so I couldn't in good conscience give it to either of them.
That led me to my conclusion: Ryan Getzlaf is simultaneously the team's Most Valuable and Least Valuable Player over the first 48 games of the 2011-‘12 season. This is based almost entirely on intangibles. Sure, Getzy has nine points in his last ten games, the team has won eight of those contests and he only tallied two points in his previous nine games, only one of which was a win. More importantly though is how the team has looked through those stretches and how that has mirrored the play of their captain.
It's absolutely astounding to me how much the team has taken on the emotional makeup of its young leader over his short tenure as captain. From the frustrations bubbling over early on last season to the lackluster effort put forth through most of this season and the aggressive confidence we've seen over the past month, the Ducks seem to take their mental cues from Getzy for better or worse.
When he's willing and able to zip a 120 foot strike onto the tape of a streaking Bobby Ryan for a clear cut breakaway, as he did on Sunday, the rest of the gang are world beaters. When he floats no look, behind the back passes into open ice in the neutral zone they're sloppy and uninspired. I don't know if he realizes how much his work ethic and decision making affects the rest of the team mentally, but the sooner he does and takes steps to put forth a more consistent effort, the better it will be for his career and the team's success overall.
His partner in crime, Corey Perry, overhauled his game midway through last season, by taking on more defensive responsibility (penalty killing) and decreasing the rate at which he takes penalties for the greater good and look where it got him. I believe that if Getzlaf can make similar adjustments to his attitude it could be the next step for him to become the dominant number one center that he's been projected as since being drafted.
I've written here before that I thought giving Getz the C prior to last season would inspire him to become a more complete player, especially in terms of his mental fortitude, but it hasn't yet and the Ducks have been paying for it this season. He has been the team's MIP (Most Important Player) and as such the Most Valuable when he's on his game and the Least Valuable when he's not.
So, I cheated a little bit on the first section of the post and I'm going to hedge a little bit in my "Bold Prediction."
I will stick with the quasi-prediction that I made around Thanksgiving that this season for the Ducks will parallel New Jersey's last year. An abysmal start leads to coaching change that doesn't pay dividends right away. The team hits rock bottom around the New Year and goes on a tear in the second half only to find it dug itself a grave that was far too deep to climb out of, finishing below the bubble teams but above the lottery teams. The difference being that the Ducks will not have the Devils' luck in moving all the way up to the fourth overall selection in the draft. Let's say they choose tenth overall in Pittsburgh this June.